Good morning, and happy Tuesday. Memorial Day Weekend kicks off in the states on Friday. We’ll still send Payload then but we’re off Monday, May 30. We’ll be back Tuesday with a big announcement.
In today’s newsletter:
🌊 Benchmark expands
💾 Interplanetary files
🔁 On the move
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Pond-Hopping from Lake Champlain across the Atlantic
Benchmark Space Systems has opened a new UK facility to serve the British and European markets, the Burlington, VT-based company announced this morning. The Vermont propulsion provider has also signed a deal with Space Forge, a British in-space manufacturing startup.
Land and expand: Mark Arthur, Benchmark’s European lead, told Payload that the UK operation will be making product for Space Forge and other unannounced customers by year’s end.
- Benchmark set up shop in Westcott Venture Park, which for decades housed production for British guided missiles and R&D vehicles. The area is still dense with propulsion talent.
- The European market has a strong interest in green satellite propellants, Arthur said, so it’s a perfect time for Benchmark to make its move.
Space Forge’s POV: CEO Joshua Western told Payload that Space Forge selected Benchmark for its heritage, performance, and willingness to iterate. The two companies will co-develop a reusable version of Benchmark’s chemical propulsion systems.
If successful, they can show the industry “satellite technology beyond single use.”
- “The cost of return from space has only increased” on a per-kilogram basis since the Space Shuttle’s retirement, Western said.
- Space Forge aims to validate its manufacturing payload and reentry capsule on the ForgeStar Orbital Vehicle 1, set to launch next year.
A new market? Western predicts an “explosion in the downmass market” this decade. Reentry services will start with LEO, he said. At-scale, in-space manufacturing has been a fantasy for a long time. But before companies make fiber optic cables or pharmaceutical goods in space and ship them back to Earth en masse, they’ll need to validate early testbeds in demo missions.
For more on in-space manufacturing and reentry capsules, read our full story here.
A Distributed Network for the Moon
Lockheed Martin has partnered with the Filecoin Foundation, a decentralized database developer, to deploy the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) for future use in lunar communications.
IPFS: The two companies are working to enable faster internet connection from the Moon. Usually when you try to access a piece of information on the internet, your computer has to fetch that data from a centralized server. IPFS uses a distributed network, so it can instead retrieve the data from wherever it was recently accessed.
The value for a lunar colony
“That means if someone else nearby on the Moon has already retrieved that data, the data only has to travel a short distance and can get to you quickly instead of traveling back and forth from Earth with every click,” Marta Belcher, president of the Filecoin Foundation, said in a company blog post.
With Artemis and humanity’s return to the Moon getting closer, more and more companies are tossing their hat in the future lunar economy ring. A long-term presence on the lunar surface will require new logistics systems. A robust communications infrastructure that doesn’t require data to make the ~240,000-mile trip between the Earth and Moon could be a key component technology.
The partnership: Lockheed and the Filecoin Foundation plan to initially deploy IPFS in LEO to test how it works in orbit. Between now and August, the two companies will find a satellite platform to host the IPFS payload, determine compatibility requirements for the bus they select, and seek out an initial demo mission opportunity.
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In Other News
- SpaceX has sent 12,000+ Starlink dishes to Ukraine, minister Mykhailo Fedorov told Bloomberg. The broadband internet service has connected all types of critical infrastructure in the country.
- NASA pushed back the launch of its Psyche asteroid mission due to software testing issues, Spaceflight Now reports.
- Satellogic ($SATL) is expanding Australian operations to serve the wider APAC region.
- Here’s a *parody* story about the Space Force standing up an elite SEALs [Space, Extra-planetary, Astral, Lunar] unit. This is the quality comedy that space deserves (H/T Duffel Blog).
- Elsewhere in the cosmic comedy files, Asteroid 7335 will make a close encounter with Earth this week (and fly by safely). The asteroid, AccuWeather helpfully points out, is the size of roughly 350 giraffes.
- Former deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver, who led the charge on the Commercial Crew & Cargo programs, estimated at Ars Technica’s Frontiers conference that the Shuttle cost $1B/head to send astronauts to the ISS.
On the Move
- Stratolaunch appointed Jackson Kemper III as CRO and Mary Normand as CFO.
- EdgeCortix, a fabless chip design firm, named Stanley Crow, former CEO of Northrop Grumman ($NOC) Japan, to its new strategic advisory board.
- ESPI, or the European Space Policy Institute, has appointed Hermann Ludwig Moeller as its new director, effective Sept. 1.
- Kleos nominated Momentus ($MNTS) CRO Dawn Harms as an independent non-executive director.
- Iridium Communications ($IRDM) elected Kay Sears to its board. Sears is a VP and GM of autonomous systems for Boeing Defense, Space, and Security.
- NASA’s lunar Gateway Program will be led by Holly Ridings as deputy program manager. In 2018, Ridings became the agency’s first female chief flight director. Separately, David McBride, director of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, will retire on June 30 after 35 years at the agency.
- Integrate Space Corporation brought on Andrew Sloan as head of product and operations.
- Space Machines Company appointed Mark Ramsey as COO and Anthony Kittel as an advisory board member.
- Cognitive Space promoted Hanna Steplewska to COO.
- The Pentagon has winnowed down its search for the Space Force’s next chief to Lt. Gen. John Shaw and Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, Breaking Defense recently reported.
- The Aerospace Corporation hired John Galer as its new chief of government relations.
- MagniX, an electric propulsion company, welcomed Nuno Taborda as CEO.
- The Karman Project named its 2022 fellows: